PhD in Design

The doctoral programme is closely linked with the research activity at the Department of Design. Research fields, to name a few, are:

  • Design methodology
  • Interaction design (Man Machine)
  • Ecodesign
  • Design strategy

A list of recent publications can be found that reflect current research interests at the department.


Interested? - Contact us


The Department of Design encourages interested candidates that are interested in enrolling in our doctoral programme to contact the department. Candidates with (1) excellent research ideas/proposals that can be tied to the department's focus areas, and (2) who posess the relevant background (curriculum vitae) are likely to receive an invitation for further discussion. We strongly encourage you to include a funding plan with your research proposal, as generally, the department is not in the position to directly allocate funding to PhD positions.

For information regarding the programme structure, applicable rules and forms, see the doctoral programme pages for the Faculty of Architecture and Design.


Review and response


It should be noted that, although all applications will be read, candidates that send application e-mails which are not in line with the above, will receive a polite but standard rejection message, or no answer at all.

For more information you can contact:

Defended theses:

Defended theses:



Sofie Østergaard


From left: Doctor Ole Jørgen Hanssen, Østfoldforskning, Doctor Thomas Eie, Bama/Den norske emballasjeforening, candidate Sofie Østergaard, Professor Helen Williams, Karlstad University, Associate Professor Jon Rismoen, NTNU, Professor Casper Boks, NTNU. Photo: Private

Sofie Østergaard succesfully defended her doctoral thesis on 30 October 2019, at the Department of Design, NTNU:

"The role of consumer behaviour in reducing the waste of fresh bread: Sustainable packaging development in an industrial perspective"

Food waste and possible solutions towards reducing food waste particularly on consumer level has been a rising topic in the society the last decade. The thesis explores the role of how consumer behaviour, shopping habits and preferences influence the waste of fresh bread on household level and how sustainable packaging development may contribute towards reducing edible waste of bread at home.  The thesis uses multiple exploratory consumer studies, pilot tests, laboratory studies as well as quantitative studies. The main audience of this thesis is stakeholders in the food industry, design students, politicians or anyone that have an interest in understanding the complexity of food waste and wishes to learn more about sustainable food systems.


Faheem Ali

From left: Casper Boks, Ida Nilstad Pettersen, Connie Bakker, candidate Faheem Ali, Raphaëlle Steward, Glenn Johansson and Niki Bey. Photo: Anne Kristin Stenersen/NTNU

Faheem Ali defended his doctoral thesis on 28 August at the Department of Industrial Design, NTNU:

”Exploring the role of company context for informing Design for Sustainability implementation”

Companies are increasingly taking on a sustainability journey in their operations. Design for Sustainability (DfS) has been one such prominent response from companies to address the challenges of sustainability. The thesis uses insights from seven case companies in Norway and Denmark to understand the different contextual elements in a DfS implementation scenario. The thesis further adds on to the academic discourse on DfS by presenting insights from five different adjacent fields of study and how it can contribute to DfS implementation. The main audience of this thesis are DfS researchers and management consultants working with sustainability implementation in companies.

Casper Boks (Prof.), Department of Design
Niki Bey (assoc. Prof..) Danmarks Tekniske Universitet (DTU)

Raphaëlle Stewart

Raphaëlle Stewart defended her doctoral thesis on 20 March 2019:

"Integration of Sustainability Approaches in Companies: An Exploration of Narratives and Internal Organizational Functioning”

Intensively discussed in the international scene, as illustrated with the Sustainable Development Goals launched by the United Nations, sustainable development and sustainability have been well established as central topics for our societies. Recent scientific work urges to reduce environmental sustainability pressures so that Earth’s life-supporting functions can be maintained, and economies and societies nested in the Earth system can keep thriving. The role of companies in supporting the transition towards sustainable societies has been emphasized by researchers, policy-makers and companies themselves. In this context, companies increasingly develop their own sustainability approaches. Sustainability approaches can take various forms such as environmental management, sustainable supply chain management, and cleaner production. In this PhD project, a product life cycle perspective was taken, which relates to viewing companies as the major providers of goods and services (hereafter referred to as “products”), with their embedded life cycles, in our economies. The decisions made during the product development activities have typically been considered to determine a large share of products’ environmental sustainability impacts along their life cycle. Hence, companies have a key role to play through the development and delivery of products, which is the focus of ecodesign research. Sustainability approaches can be researched on different layers, ranging from internal organizational functioning, over operational sustainability practices and companies’ narratives, to functioning of the overall business ecosystem. In this PhD project, sustainability approaches from a product life cycle perspective were researched based on two different layers of sustainability approaches, namely company narratives and internal organizational functioning.

Together, the two tracks of this PhD project had in common to allow “getting closer to companies”- to the companies’ understanding of how to best present their sustainability efforts, and to the companies’ internal organizational functioning, respectively. This PhD research provides complementary insights on how to strengthen the integration of sustainability approaches in industry, from a product life cycle perspective. The first track identified the need for an increased use of life cycle thinking in companies’ narratives for critical analyses and reflections about existing product life cycle systems, and the environmental sustainability challenges they are associated with. The second track paved the way for further testing of the analytical and practical value of the four-lens view of organizations to investigate and support ecodesign integration in companies, with a broad horizon of what internal organizational functioning entails. These two tracks were conducted independently to a great extent, and opportunities for their cross-linking are outlined for future research.



Anne Carlijn Vis

Anne Carlijn Vis defended her doctoral thesis 3 December at the Department of Design, NTNU:

”Matching Intentions with Experience – a Human-Centered Service Design Approach to Shared Decision Making ”

Demographic change towards an older population and increasing prevalence of life-style related diseases lead to changing needs for medical care. Simultaneously, medical practice is moving away from paternalistic decision making. Patients and their next-of-kin are increasingly invited to become active agents in treatment decisions. This practice is called Shared Decision Making (SDM).

Chronic Kidney Failure (CKF) is used as an example to investigate the implementation of SDM practice in chronic care. SDM is being promoted among others in Norway (Leivestad, 2013) and the United States. However, a systematic review that covered studies from various countries, conveyed that patients with CKF and their next-of-kin have frequently reported a lack of choice. Moreover, others have claimed that best practices on effective approaches to information dissemination and knowledge acquisition for patients with CKF are lacking. Furthermore, regarding SDM in general, there is a need to investigate how patients and their next-of-kin are best supported in making a choice, as only providing information is not enough.

The aim of this thesis is to reach a better understanding of aspects that can support the (re)design of pre-treatment education and decision-support programs for chronic patients and their next-of-kin. This is done by investigating existing interventions that provide pretreatment education and/or decision support to patients and their next-of-kin from a humancentred design perspective. Emphasis is placed on the situation in Norway.



Martha Skogen

Martha Skogen defended her thesis 6 June 2017 at the Department of Design, NTNU:

"Do You See What I See? Investigations into the Underlying Parameters of Visual Simplicity"

Motivated by a longstanding interest in timeless design, this research focused on visual simplicity due to its potential as a core value of a design’s longevity. Multiple studies were conducted to investigate how people view, interpret, and understand visual stimuli, with simplicity as a fundamental aesthetic approach. The research goal was to uncover what the underlying components of visual simplicity may be, and how people judge those components. The research into visual simplicity is rooted in the following questions: 

I. What is visual simplicity and what are the graphic design parameters that determine it?

II. How do people interpret visual simplicity?

III. Does everyone agree?

The range of visual stimuli tested here included aspects of the real world as well as the computer realm. The stimuli included (in order): CD covers, architecture and/or public spaces, miniaturized poster art, graphical user interface (‘GUI’) screen layouts and GUI icons. The initial studies included adult participants only. Results revealed a consistency in responses: In both the real world and GUI realms, adults answered consistently that “simple” design meant a scant amount of detail and minimal use of line, color, and other graphic design parameters— whereas “complicated” visual design meant the opposite. For adults, there seemed to be a reliable set of design parameters that when combined, elicited a “simple” or “complicated” response to a visual design, regardless of media. However, the final set of studies revealed an unforeseen phenomenon: youths ( ≤ age 13) did not respond consistently with adults. In general, youths did not consistently associate detail-scant GUI icons with simplicity, but in many cases with being more complicated. This revealed a possibility that people go through a period of transition during which they change their interpretations of minimalized, abstracted imagery and then associate those characteristics with being “simple”. This phenomenon led to a discussion regarding the potential existence of ‘visual archetypes’ and how they might be interpreted by viewers of various ages. ‘Visual archetypes’ refer to a design that uses the least amount of visual information required to communicate the message.

The contributions of this doctoral research include:
• expanded awareness of design parameters that are associated with the relationship between visual Simplicity-Complicated
• insight into the emotional aspects connected with visual Simplicity-Complicated
• awareness that not all viewers interpret Simplicity-Complicated identically (age-based differences were revealed—there may be other differences)
• recognition of the possibility for unintentional design presumptions
• discussion of visual archetypes

This research contributes to the design community by demonstrating that people can interpret design differently than designers might presume and/or intend. Although the research raises awareness of potential interpretive differences between children and (primarily) midlife adults, the discussion can perhaps apply to seniors as well. Importantly, the research revealed that children are highly capable interpreters of our culturally- and computer-based visual information.



Daniela Blauhaut

Daniela Blauhaut defended her doctoral thesis 10 May 2016:

«Handheld devices for use within integrated operations in the petroleum industry»

Handheld devices have been used for several years in integrated operations in the petroleum industry. There is little knowledge of the effects of their design on efficient and safe plant operation, however. Moreover, little is known about how operators evaluate design and usability of mobile devices to support their work. The objective of this research work is to investigate how the design of handheld devices affects working routines to facilitate efficient and safe operations at gas processing plants and to what extent their use improve current procedures and satisfies users’ needs.

For the purpose of creating design criteria for future product development, the research includes the collection and analysis of data on existing collaborative work practices in safety critical environments and evaluation studies of handheld devices that are currently used by operators on Norwegian land facilities. The criteria are based on theory and interviews, observation material, and video data from three ethnographic fieldwork studies conducted at the Ormen Lange and Hammerfest LNG onshore processing plants. The data were analysed using techniques from ethnographic analysis, video analysis, and design. The thesis seeks to show relationships by taking a holistic view of human-computer interaction (HCI). It brings interaction with the real world - including sensory experience - into the focus of attention when designing future products. Creative decisions, in particular for mobile communication technologies, should be based upon theoretical considerations of the life world, embodiment, and Gestalt theory as well as on frameworks such as Distributed cognition and Activity theory because they are important for correct and effective use of technical devices. Handheld devices used in industrial contexts should be designed to support task performance rather than device performance. To succeed, the focus should, on the one hand, be on physical space in which work is done and on established procedures. On the other hand, user experiences and behavioural patterns as well as users’ mobility should be taken into account. A logical outcome of this is simplification of technology complexity.

The aim of this research work is not to provide innovative technology but rather to emphasise the impacts of mobile technologies on people and business goals as well as on the physical and social environment in which technologies are used. The thesis is written from a design perspective and suggests aims for the design of handheld devices for use in the oil and gas industry. It presents a complex theoretical and empirical research and shows the dimensions that must be considered when designing seemingly small devices in order to meet their requirements. To answer the problem statement of the thesis, material from the fields of philosophy, cognitive science, and design theory was used and related to the empirical data collected from fieldwork studies. Based on a comprehensive design and context analysis, knowledge about handheld devices used in a hazardous work setting and information about user experiences is presented and data on the activity system of field operators provided. Finally, design criteria for handheld devices are suggested and three concepts of mobile devices evaluated to identify their opportunities and challenges.

The research results show why it is necessary to design mobile technology from a user’s perspective. There is, however, a need for more empirical research in time-constrained, datadrive environments where people are required to perceive data rapidly in fast-paced situations. In order to provide people with well-designed equipment, human aspects will have to play a greater role in technology development and in design and engineering sciences.



Brita Fladvad Nielsen

Brita Fladvad Nielsen defended her doctoral thesis 27 October 2015, at NTNU:


When we are searching for knowledge about other peoples and reasons, it is largely motivated by an underlying need to understand ourselves. In humanitarian aid we want to know, how we can provide the most help. Even after decades with a lack of clear evidence that aid helps, and knowing the dependencies and corruption it may feed, we do not discuss whether we should help, we keep searching for a better way to help. Perhaps desperately, we want to find a way for communities to reach our level of wellbeing. Individually, we want know that what we do matters.
Humanitarian staff seek a way to save lives. Refugees want services that will take them out of the refugee camp. The socioeconomic development of the refugee depends on the opportunities given, while the socioeconomic development of the region and larger context surrounding the refugee camp depends on stimulating the dynamic between the agendas in the larger picture. A missing link between the concern and effect is how knowledge flows between the relevant stakeholder groups. Knowing how separate agendas can link to affect humanitarian values requires the acknowledgment of the refugee and the host community as stakeholders in humanitarian action, and a consideration of where information is accessible within the system.
While humanitarian organizations, NGO stakeholders and many enterprises want to help, they are not aware of the extent and the significance of systemic and contextual problems inherent in the refugee’s situation. Humanitarian customers do not have a routine method for providing this information. Refugees do not know how to get out of their situation in the constructed refugee camp reality; one that promises personal development but rejects real opportunities. Humanitarian staff in the refugee camps want to help but cannot because of lack of power, lack of influence in decision making and lack of information access and knowledge.
This research has provided a way to understand humanitarian action on a small and large scale. Depending on which part of humanitarian action one wishes to effect, Agenda Spaces can be useful when desiring to affect longer term products and services within humanitarian action. The resulting framework helps distinguish design for humanitarian action focusing on low resource settings from other design challenges such as design for the bottom of the pyramid or design for marginalized populations.

Alf Ove Braseth

23 January 2015, Alf Ove Braseth defended his doctoral thesis:

"Information-Rich Design:
A Concept for Large-Screen Display Graphics: Design Principles and Graphic Elements for Real-World Complex Processes"

The objective in this thesis research is to mitigate two problems, which are typically experienced by control room operators monitoring large-scale processes in centralized control rooms: 

i) How to design for rapid perception of industrial-scale data sets? 
ii) How to avoid keyhole effects in complex processes? 

In this thesis, these problems are approached through research into Large-Screen Display (LSD) design; the contribution is a concept named Information-Rich Design (IRD).The concept is not domain specific, and it is useable typically for nuclear and petroleum industries. IRD can be used as a starting point for user-centred design, as opposed to approaching the problem from the technology end first. 
The thesis research is based on a broad perspective, through interaction design research methods: design exploration, design studies and design practice. Design exploration was done on a small-scale early in the research process, and later through three complete LSD applications. The first two LSDs were implemented on full-scale nuclear simulators, and the most recent was implemented for an operational nuclear research reactor. Crews of certified control room operators have provided feedback for design in an iterative research process. 

Design studies were based on findings from basic, applied and clinical research: 

(1) human capabilities and characteristics 
(2) principles for information visualization 
(3) findings from human-computer interaction 
(4) research from other related display concepts

Design practice from applying IRD commercially in Norwegian petroleum industry was fed back into the concept. The thesis research suggests that LSDs should be designed from the ground-up, acting as a stable frame of reference for process monitoring, leaving details for desktop workstations. Research found that larger displays should support bottom-up data driven processes by presenting process data as simple visual patterns, suitable for rapid visual perception. Further, LSDs should support operators in top-down search for information, and aim to avoid keyhole effects through externalized graphics, which do not load limited visual memory resources. Graphics should reduce visual complexity by creating visual hierarchies, giving critical information the most prominent visual salience, while avoiding masking primary data from less important information. Based on this, the contribution for LSD designs, are design principles and accompanying graphics. The IRD concept is theoretically validated, and externally validated through industrial applications and user tests. 



Johannes Ludvig Zachrisson Daae

Johannes Ludvig Zachrisson Daae defended his doctoral thesis 29 April 2014 at NTNU:

"Informing Design for Sustainable Behaviour"

This doctoral thesis is written for design practitioners and researchers who are interested in how the design of products can make people use them in the most sustainable way.
The main purpose of the thesis is to describe how the individual pieces of research described in the published papers, together contribute to answering the research questions and contribute to new insight to the research field.

krysspublisert ID: 1263188355 For existing PhD candidates